Tag Archives: pedestrian safety

For Worcester: Zero Pedestrian Deaths!

In Piedmont: Painting faded Worcester crosswalks guides pedestrians – and drivers! pic:R.T.

By Gordon Davis

The City of Boston has recently lowered the speed limit for streets in its “urban areas” – which include business districts and residential dwellings with less than 100 feet between dwellings for a distance of at least one-eighth of a mile. The reason for this law is to reduce accidents and pedestrian deaths.

The Boston City Council and Boston representatives in the State House were concerned about drivers using local Boston roads as short cuts around State and Federal highways.

In Massachusetts during the last three years of record keeping there have been 75 pedestrian deaths by automobiles. The issue also affects Worcester. The last pedestrian death in Worcester was Patricia LeMay who was killed on July 14, 2016.

Governor Charlie Baker signed into law an amendment to Bill H 4331 which allows cities and town to lower the default speed limit from 30 miles per hours to 25 miles per hours in urban areas.

This means that the Worcester City Council can bypass the entire Home Rule bureaucracy and by majority vote lower the speed limit for most streets in Worcester to 25 miles per hour.

Worcester too should strive to have zero pedestrian deaths or death of bicyclists or children at play. Lowering the speed limit not only reduces the number of accidents, but it also increases the likelihood of pedestrian survival.

Most pedestrians are relatively poorer people or disabled in some way – or both.

Getting the Worcester City Council to do something against drivers might be like trying to get Congress to pass gun control. No driver wants to give up the right to make pedestrians get out of his way. I am reminded of the complaint against a city of Worcester high ranking employee who was accused of using profanity and a racial slur as he was exiting the Worcesyer City Hall garage.

To some extent it is also a racial issue as even Trump acknowledges there are racial economic disparities. Besides not having cars and walking, many poorer people live within the definition of urban areas as found in the Bill H. 4331.

Given these facts on the ground, it is unlikely that the Worcester City Council will enact an emergency ordinance like they did with the dirt bikes.

I am pretty sure cars kill more people than dirt bikes. The dirt bike riders were mostly Hispanic young men.

Dirt bikes are certainly a nuisance, but the way the ordinance was enforced raises civil liberties issues.

It is also unlikely that a champion will come forward on this speed limit issue like councillor Rosen has done for the doggies’ owners.

The first step for safer reduced speed streets in Worcester is to have public hearings by the City Council. The councilor this task would naturally fall to is Councilor Kate Toomey, chair of the Public Safety Committee. However, given the social economic class of motorists as a group, no one on our City Council will most likely do anything. Many in City Council will repeat the mantra, “The City police dept. is doing a good job. We should not question what they do. Chief Sargent meets with Crime Watch groups. We are not racist.”

This is the time to lower the speed limit in urban areas and make the effort to attain the goal of zero pedestrian deaths!

City Councilor Mike Gaffney Plays Roulette with Public Safety

By Gordon Davis

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is an engineering college here in Worcester. It is known worldwide for its engineering programs and graduates.

WPI has an urban campus (Institute Road) with public streets. Like many cities in the USA, the drivers in Worcester drive aggressively and arrogantly. Some drivers just go too fast for our streets.

In Worcester there is about one incident a week where a motorist strikes a pedestrian. Half of the incidents are hit and runs. Some result in the pedestrian’s death.

Last week a driver struck an older person on Shrewsbury Street. A long-time resident of Worcester said in a letter to the local newspaper that she was afraid to cross the streets of Worcester as some drivers go “50, 60 or 70” miles per hour.

My wife and I were almost struck by a speeding car as we entered the cross walk at the Marine Corp. League.

crosswalk signal
Crosswalk signal. photo: Gordon Davis

The cross walk signal was blinking bright yellow. It seemed that the motorist sped up!

It is my opinion that when a motorist strikes a pedestrian, he should receive an automatic $500 fine – regardless of fault. This would help remind motorists they MUST, in all cases, yield to pedestrians – or stop for pedestrians in some situations.

This issue of pedestrians and public safety is a serious one. People are dying. It should not be a political football. The crosswalk signals being requested by WPI should be built. These are public streets for which the City and the Worcester City Council are responsible.

Is money a higher priority than public safety and our lives?  

Worcester City Councilor Michael T. Gaffney, like many others, seems to think so. We have a situation where Councilor Gaffney will delay or not expedite a public safety issue that has come before the Worcester City Council because he wants WPI to pay for all the crosswalk signals.

Some people seem to believe that pedestrians have no rights – except to get out of the way of a speeding vehicle!
I was told that a few folks were angry that I criticized the Majority Leader of the Massachusetts State Senate, Harriet Chandler, for her proposed bill to fine pedestrians who jaywalked. They were especially irked by my suggestion that motorists be automatically fined for striking pedestrians.

A pedestrian, when struck by a car, does not harm the motorist. The pedestrian never gets up and runs away from the scene of the accident.

Councilor Gaffney has previously made statements contrary to public safety. At a mayoral debate he stated that when a motorist strikes a pedestrian, the motorist suffers emotional anguish. He said nothing about the pedestrian’s pain and suffering!

So, as stated above, we have a situation where Councilor Gaffney will delay or not expedite a public safety issue because he wants WPI to pay for it. WPI already makes payment to the City of Worcester in lieu of taxes (PILOT). If Gaffney believes that WPI should pay more in PILOT to the City of Worcester then that can be negotiated. However, to hold as hostage or leverage an issue of public safety such as cross walk signals makes no sense and is playing roulette with our lives.  

A reasonable person could conclude that Gaffney is using this issue to further his rumored career move to the State Senate. If so, shame on him for endangering the lives of Worcester residents and the public.

A reasonable person would install the cross walk signals now and negotiate a possible increase of WPI’s payment in lieu of taxes later.

Unfortunately, I do not know of many people who think Councilor Gaffney is a reasonable person.

Go, Gordon Davis, go!

Icy road 12-30-15
CM Ed Augustus and DPW head Paul Moosey fucked up when it came to deploying snowplows this past snowstorm. Some say Moosey’s got the personality of a wet dish rag. Or slushy street.

Snow’s Limited Judgment

By Gordon Davis

Snow, rain, freezing rain, and a flash freeze came to Worcester on December 29, 2015. As of late afternoon of December 30, 2015 many of the streets in Worcester are still ice packed and unplowed.

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., has stated in his December 30, 2015 public letter, “Many of our streets are not in the condition our taxpayers have the right to expect.”

Augustus has admitted in his letter that the wrong decision “was made.” The use of the passive voice in the assignment of blame leaves open and unclear who is to blame for this mess. Most politicians are skilled at the use of the passive voice to shift blame.

The city manager in his letter also said the Worcester Department of Public Works (DPW) deployed salters and sanders well before the precipitation arrived. However, it did not call in the plows because the forecast was for “slush.” I suppose this makes some sense.

When it became clear to the DPW, the weather and street conditions would be more than just slush, the DPW called in the plows in the late afternoon of December 29, 2015. This does not seem to have been entirely accurate, as many of the main streets are still ice covered inn the late afternoon of December 30, 2015, especially the break down lanes.

I had not seen one plow truck on my street or anywhere in Worcester on December 30, 2015.  Perhaps the city manager can say what streets were plowed.

DPW Commissioner Paul Moosey said there was a limited response to the flash freezing of snow and rain. Unfortunately, his response not only did not excuse the error in judgment, but failed to address another important issue. 

The issue of pedestrians was not addressed. Because of the ice and snow, the sidewalks have to be shoveled and treated.

We pedestrians have gotten used to the failure of some property owners to shovel and treat their sidewalks.

Even the City of Worcester fails to do so on some of their properties.  When a sidewalk is unshoveled or untreated pedestrians usually can walk in the break down lanes in the streets.

But this storm we could not.

The breakdown lanes were not plowed and were as bad as the unshoveled sidewalks. Plowed streets being important for pedestrians did not seem to be a concern for Augustus or Moosey of the DPW. Neither of whom mentioned us in their public communiqués.

This lack of concern seems to fit the pattern of Worcester ignoring or marginalizing pedestrians.

There seems to be about one pedestrian death per week in Worcester.

There is a perception that the police looks first to see if the pedestrian was at fault and then looks for the fault of the driver in a pedestrian motorist accident.

It is time to have a default law assuming that the motorist who hits a pedestrian is always at fault for not yielding to a pedestrian.

Getting back to the snow and ice issues, the City Manager Augustus should review how decisions are made in terms of when to do more than a “limited” response to road conditions. Augustus should take full responsibility for any and all errors of judgment and stop using the passive voice in assigning blame.

It was shameful how Governor Charlie Baker shifted blame for last season’s MBTA failures. This season’s failures clearly are the responsibility of Governor Baker.

I hope Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus does not trap himself into this shameful practice of shifting blames. He should own up to this and other errors in judgments he has made.